Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Pioneer Movie Poster Image
1970s-set conspiracy thriller has strong language, violence.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No one can be trusted. Greed rules everything. Governments would sooner kill innocent people than give up on enormous profits.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a mostly ordinary guy and a problem-solver, though he sometimes takes deceptive and/or dangerous methods to achieve his goals. Characters are shown training for diving.


Tense situations. An underwater accident results in a death. Fighting. A man has a seizure. Car chase and crash. Head wound. Dead bodies. Pressure chamber torture. Explosion. Men sexually harass a woman, showing her their penises (off screen). 


One naked male butt. Brief innuendo. A happy couple kisses.


"F--k" and "s--t" used several times. Also "motherf----r," "goddamn," "son of a bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pioneer is a paranoid conspiracy thriller from Norway, spoken in English and Norwegian with English subtitles. Strong language (mostly in English) includes several uses of "f--k" and "s--t"; there's also some in the subtitles. Violence includes chases, fights, dead bodies, and some blood. There are tense situations involving underwater accidents and pressure chambers (including some torture), as well as some sexual innuendo and brief scenes of sexual harassment as men expose their penises to women (but only a naked male butt is shown on screen). The Norwegian director also made the original version of Insomnia, which was remade by Christopher Nolan, so older teen cinema buffs may be interested in this.

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What's the story?

In the 1970s, a rich oil deposit is discovered in the North Sea off the coast of Norway. Teams of Norwegian and American divers start training to withstand the pressure of the more than 300-meter depths. Among them are Petter (Aksel Hennie) and his brother, family man Knut (Andre Eriksen). While below, something happens to Petter's gas mix, and he blacks out at a crucial moment, causing an accident and killing his brother. Wracked with grief and guilt, Petter begins investigating. He finds out that the man in charge of the gas suffered from seizures ... but then quickly discovers that it's not that simple and that the conspiracy goes much deeper. Soon his life is in danger, and he realizes he must dive once more to discover the truth.

Is it any good?

Helmed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg, the director of the original Insomnia (1997), which was remade by Christopher Nolan in 2002, PIONEER is a serviceable, enjoyable thriller. It attempts to capture the feel of a 1970s-era paranoid conspiracy movie, and it succeeds in tone, even if the plot isn't quite so air-tight. Petter takes illogical risks in some cases, and in others simply overlooks logic. And some of the plot turns feel stale.

Although Pioneer isn't exactly the kind of movie that keeps viewers guessing and on the edge of their seat, Hennie is an appealing lead -- an antidote to handsome-but-dull action heroes -- and the rest of the cast is likewise appealing, including Americans Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Wes Bentley (who provides most of the filthiest language). And Skjoldbjaerg's sultry, gritty atmosphere helps smooth over some of the flaws.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Pioneer's violence. How did it affect you? How much is shown or not shown? Is it thrilling or gruesome? Is it all necessary to the story?

  • Does this movie make diving look like exciting work? Dangerous work? Does it look appealing? Are the men who do it heroes? Role models?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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